For his PhD at Bar-Ilan’s Faculty of Life Sciences, David Zada used groundbreaking 3D cell biology imaging in live animals to define sleep in a single neuron, showing for the first time that sleep is required for performing nuclear maintenance in the neuron. This benefit could explain why sleep has evolved, despite the increased risk of predation to sleeping animals. By providing this cellular marker for defining sleep, researchers no longer need to rely only on behavioral criteria, and can investigate cells under a microscope. This research garnered a great deal of media and scientific attention and earned Dr. Zada the Excellent Papers in Neuroscience Award (EPNA) for outstanding scientific publications by early career scientists.
As part of his PhD, Dr. Zada was a visiting scholar at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and collaborates with labs at Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute and Stanford.For his postdoc in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San-Diego, Dr. Zada is examining how animals that live in social groups, such as flocks of birds, schools of fish, and troops of primates, engage with the world and make decisions in cooperation with one another. These socially cohesive groups appear to collect more sensory information about their environment than individuals alone do, but how they share their information is unknown.
Dr. Zada focuses on micro glassfish (Danionella translucida), whose group behavior is based primarily on vision. By using immersive multi-animal visual virtual reality (VR) environments, he can gain complete control over the sensory experience of individual fish. When Danionella are very young, they are not social; only at the age of 2-3 months do they start exhibit what is called schooling behavior. Dr. Zada hopes his study of the neuronal circuits controlling this social behavior, as well as what happens when he causes mutations in the genes involved, can shed light on impairments in social functioning caused by autism and schizophrenia.